They Are Out to Get You


Pat Harrington

When you are declarer, you aren’t being paranoid if you think the opponents are out to get you. They are! It’s their job. Your job is to foil them. Take a look at this deal and decide how the opponents might get you and what you can do about it. The contract is 3NT by you (South) with the ♠6 lead. East follows with the ♠Q.

♠ 9 2
J 10 3
A K 6
♣ Q 10 9 7 4

♠ A J 3
A 9 4
Q 5 3
♣ A J 6 3

Count winners — one spade, one heart, three diamonds and one club. Three more tricks must be developed. The only hope for all those tricks is in clubs, but you might have to lose the lead. How are your opponents trying to get you? They want to run spades when they win that club trick. How many spade stoppers do you have? It depends. If you win the first spade, you are left with ♠J 3. Your ♠J might be a second stopper. The ♠J could be captured by the ♠K if East gains the lead to lead through your jack. East is your dangerous opponent. If West gains the lead, he will be leading up to your jack and it is protected from attack. West is your safe opponent. Which opponent is going to gain the lead on this deal? With all the high clubs except the ♣K, you will finesse. Only West (Mr. Safe) can gain the lead if the finesse fails. You have all the other aces so West cannot reach East’s hand to attack your ♠J. Your plan is to win the ♠A at trick one, and trot over to dummy with a high diamond to finesse in clubs. If the club finesse works, you want to repeat it, so you should lead a high club from dummy (the queen, 10 or 9). That way, you can save the remaining high diamond as an entry to dummy’s fifth club in case East holds all four missing clubs.

Some declarers hold up on winning an ace when they shouldn’t. If declarer had not played the ♠A at trick one, East might return a spade and West’s spades could be ready to run when the club finesse loses. Declarer’s spade holding (♠A J 3) is a tricky holding to play. Look at our next deal. Again you are declarer in 3NT and this time the 5 lead comes up to your A J 3 with East playing the K.

♠ A 5 4
8 2
A Q 10 9 5
♣ Q 10 5

♠ Q 10 3
A J 3
J 7 4
♣ A K J 3

Winners are one heart, one spade, four clubs and one diamond. You will work on diamonds to get the two needed tricks and, again, a finesse is available. How do the opponents hope to get you? They want to run hearts if they can get in with the K. If you win the A at trick one, will you have a second heart stopper? This time, it is Mr. Danger, East, who will gain the lead if the diamond finesse fails. East will return a heart, trapping your jack, and you will go down unless hearts split 4–4. On a 4–4 heart split, even if the diamond finesse fails, you lose only three hearts and the K. How can you play to cater to a 5–3 or 6–2 heart split? Hold up on the A at trick one! When East returns a heart at trick two, you can finesse the jack (you won’t be surprised when the person who led the suit wins the Q). Win the third heart and now, when the diamond finesse fails, either East is out of hearts or hearts split 4–4 and you cannot be set. Here’s the complete deal:

♠ A 5 4
8 2
A Q 10 9 5
♣ Q 10 5
♠ J 9 8 ♠ K 7 6 2
Q 10 7 5 4 K 9 6
6 2 K 8 3
♣ 9 7 2 ♣ 8 6 4
♠ Q 10 3
A J 3
J 7 4
♣ A K J 3

On both deals, your holding in the led suit was A–J–3. On our first deal, the correct play was to win the ace at trick one. On the second, the correct play was to hold up. The determining
factor was which opponent you expected to gain the lead.

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